At the advice of their manager, the Sunweb-Projob team took yesterday off from racing so they could be fresh for today’s event sponsored by their team. It definitely helped since Klaas Vantornout and teammate Sven Vanthourenhout got 2nd and 4th place respectively. Hard man Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner ) took the win after he shook Klaas off his wheel midway through the race. Bart Wellens (Fidea) rounded out the podium in 3rd.
‘Rider of the Day’ awards go to:
Bart Wellens – for his spectacular ride from 20th position due to a poor start to a podium spot.
Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) – for his strong ride from 21st (on Bart’s wheel) to an impressive 12th place.
Sven Nys – for winning the race with only one shake of the hands for warmth!
From the first lap, Sven and Klaas took the lead with two Sunweb-Projobs leading the chase.
Going into the third lap, Sven and Klaas built their lead to almost 30 seconds. With five rounds left, the leading duo’s lead dropped slightly 20 seconds partly due to the perceived bickering between Klaas and Sven regarding who should be riding in front on the pavement sections. Maybe they were waiting for their teammates? Doubtful since they mainly all ride for themselves. Sven V’s attack on the chase group also helped to minimize the gap to the leaders. His effort eventually managed to pull Fideas Bart and Erwin Vervecken out of the chase group.
The wind and snow has really picked up during the race changing the good lines every lap.
With three rounds left, Nys accelerated and dropped Klaas. Thirty seconds behind was Wellens, Sven V and Vervecken. As soon as the leading duo split, Sven was gone – gapping Klaas by nearly 15 seconds in a two minute period.
By now, the sky has turned dark and the temperature was quickly dropping. I bet the icy-cold water under their tires didn’t help the situation much. Thankfully most were fully legged, covered ears and some sporting hats with bills to keep the snow out of their eyes.
The course had been completely covered in snow where these guys couldn’t even see any lines - good or bad. By the time Klaas would come through a section on the course, Sven's tire line was already gone. Some seemed to be affected by the ‘inclement’ weather while others like Sven didn’t seem to notice.
Coming across the pavement with two laps to go, Sven V slapped his hands against his hips in an effort to warm them up. A bit behind him was a line of guys riding the pavement section all shaking their hands in unison.
The mud was now so thick that Sven seemed to be pushing the bike forward mainly with his arms for most of the course. As the race went on, the increased number of near-catastrophes, especially in the turns, was proof of how dangerous the course had become.
Going into the last round at 51:41 Sven crossed the line with a 30 second gap on Klaas. Having shaken Sven V off his wheel, Wellens puts in a last ditch effort to bridge to Klaas 15 seconds up the road.
Sven crossed the line with hands raised, while Klaas and Bart crossed the line with hands shaking.
In the finish line tent, the first thing Sven did was put his hands in a bucket of warm water.
It was painful to watch the racers suffer after they crossed the finish line. Even though I expected the racers to be suffering badly from the tough weather, I was in pain watching them. It was only one hour before their race that I, too, was doing the hand shake.
Photo is of my backyard earlier today. The other is of my homemade pumpkin soup topped with Jonas' enthusiastic decoration using hot sauce.